Microsoft have announced that Internet Explorer 8.0 will be released via the Windows Automatic Update starting on the third week of April 2009 (view the IEBlog announcement). The final version of the browser has been available for download since 20 March, but its uptake has been fairly sedate and is probably limited to web developers and early adopters.
The Automatic Update is likely to change the situation significantly. All IE6 and IE7 users on Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008 will receive an IE8 update notification. It will be marked as “High-priority” in XP and 2003, and “Important” in Vista and 2008. The roll out will initially target a small audience but expand to cover the entire user base over the coming weeks.
However, IE8 will not install automatically and a welcome screen will give users the option to install, ask later, or abandon the upgrade. The company have also released a blocker toolkit so IT administrators can disable the update.
Despite the massive roll-out, what most web developers need to know is:
will this finally eradicate IE6?
Existing IE7 users are likely to switch promptly and, by the end of the year, the browser will be languishing toward the bottom of the statistics chart. Unfortunately, IE6 users have already blocked previous IE7 updates – there is no reason why they should suddenly feel any urgency to install IE8. Many IE6 users may be unable to switch because they are:
- on a restricted corporate network or depend on IE6-only web applications
- using an older version of Windows, such as 98, ME, 2000, or XP SP1
- using an illegal copy of Windows with disabled updates, or
- ignorant or nervous about using the Windows Automatic Update system.
Or perhaps they prefer the simpler browsing experience that IE6 offers?
Whatever the reason, Microsoft’s Automatic Update may not have a significant impact on existing IE6 users. I suspect we will have a bizarre situation where the IE6 and IE8 market shares both overtake IE7. Celebrations of IE6’s demise are probably premature.
Will the IE8 Automatic Update be a success or is it increasingly irrelevant?
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.